Sipapú development plan envisions enhanced winter, summer activities
By Scott Gerdes
An expansion plan for Sipapú Ski and Summer Resort in Vadito, New Mexico percolated in Bruce Bolander’s mind back in 1990. Bolander’s vision, the son of the resort’s founders Lloyd and Olive Bolander, is on the path to becoming a reality.
John Paul Bradley, Sipapú’s mountain manager, held informal gatherings at the resort beginning last fall where he shared Sipapú’s Master Development Plan. Bradley introduced what “we would like to do in Sipapú.”
The vision for the future of the resort — it is the oldest in New Mexico having opened in 1952 — stems from it being the fastest-growing and still most affordable ski area ($45 per day adult ski passes) in the state. User numbers, he said, have been consistently increasing. Sipapú experienced its busiest day ever last winter hosting 1,160 people.
Known for its family-friendly activities and atmosphere, elbow room to ski and board, and a great place for beginners to learn how to tackle the slopes, the plan keeps that focus intact. Winter improvements include adding 1,200 acres to the current 400 acres (215 are skiable), with 299 acres (196 skiable) to be cleared for 51 new, mostly intermediate runs plus 17 acres of glade terrain for a grand total of 95 trails. Three new high-speed lifts and two magic carpets will be added. The relocation of the current main lift will become a “chondola,” a combined chairlift and gondola on the same line, which will go to an added beginner’s learning area at the top.
“That should lessen congestion at the bottom beginner’s area and around the restaurant,” Bradley explained. “And with the new trails, even on our busiest day our skiers will have even more elbow room.”
Other additions include a mountain-top restaurant; a new winter and summer tubing area (using an artificial snow surface in the summer); a zone at the top for another disc golf course; a zipline tour; mountain biking trails; a looping hiking trail at the top and a hiking trail from the bottom to the apex; and a mountain top year-round, closed-loop alpine coaster ride. More parking and snow-making capabilities are also part of the development plan.
A master development plan for the area was submitted to the U.S. Forest Service in 2010 and accepted. That plan was amended (and resubmitted) to include some ideas that came later such as the alpine coaster and tubing areas to name just a couple.
A start date can’t be given until the USFS and the public gives the OK to move forward, which Bradley anticipates to be within the next few years and will take up to approximately 10 years, if not longer. He said the EIS alone will take a couple of years to complete.
“In a perfect world,” Briner said, “the plan will be approved in the fall of 2021. It will take a year or two to construct the new lifts. The thought is to clear trees in the winter when/if approved because it’s easier to move the timber and creates less impact on the environment.”
In the planning stages for infrastructure include a new 34-unit lodge/hotel to replace the rooms destroyed in a fire two years ago. Bradley says there is no concrete timeline for its construction and they had hoped to begin building last spring. A lean winter, however, delayed that project.
A total cost for the on-the-mountain improvements is not yet available, but Bradley estimates it to be around 40 million. “One high-speed chairlift alone is about 6 to 7 million,” he said.
Bruce Bolander and his wife Winona ran Sipapú through the winter of 2000. James Coleman of Mountain Capital Partners then bought the resort. He is the primary investor and managing partner of Sipapú and Parajito Mountain Ski Area. The Bolanders are still Sipapú partners.
In 2014, Colorado’s Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort and Arizona Snowbowl announced an agreement to sell 100 percent of their respective ski areas to Coleman, making it the largest mountain collective in the Southwest. Other MCP resorts include Hesperis Ski Area near Durango and Nordic Valley Resort near Eden, Utah.
Mother Nature cooperated this fall. Sipapú’s opening day was Nov. 16, making it, once again, the first resort in New Mexico to open for the season. Along with downhill skiing and boarding, Sipapú offers snowballing, ski biking, Telemark skiing, a snow castle, ski school programs and terrain parks. Sledding and tubing are not permitted at Sipapú, however there are a couple of hills within a few minutes of the resort. Sleds are available at the gift shop for purchase.
Sipapú Ski and Summer Resort is located at 5224 State Highway 522, Vadito, New Mexico. For more information, call (800) 587-2240
or visit the website sipapu.ski.
Peak elevation: 9,255 ft.
Base elevation: 8,200 ft.
Vertical drop: 1,055 ft.
Skiable acreage: 200
Average annual snowfall: 190 inches
Named trails: 41
Terrain parks: 3
Lifts: 6 (1 quad, 2 triple, 1 platter, 2 magic carpets)
Beginner trails: 20 percent
Intermediate trails: 40 percent
Advanced trails: 25 percent
Expert trails: 15 percent
Sipapu Winter 2018-19 Events
Nov. 17-25 Thanksgiving Ski Week
Dec. 8-9 Stefan Seigman Memorial Race Weekend 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Dec. 24 Christmas Eve Party, 5-8 p.m.
Jan. 12, Feb. 16 and March 19, 2019 Happy Hops Hunts (mountain-wide scavenger hunts hosted by Santa Fe Brewing)
Jan. 12, 2019 King of the Hill Terrain Park Competition with NMX Sports, 7 a.m.-2 p.m. (Competition 11 a.m.-2 p.m.)
Jan. 13, 2019 Jam Don Diego Slopestyle Competition, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (Competition 10:45 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Jan. 19, 2019 Moonlight Hike & Campfire, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Jan. 19, 2019 Marshall’s Madness USASA Rail, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. (Competition 10:45 a.m.-1 p.m.)
Feb. 3, 2019 Super Bowl Celebration at the Riverside Cafe, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
Feb. 9-10 Ski Bike Rally, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Feb. 14, 2019 Love on the Lift, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Feb. 16-18, 2019 February Fun Fest, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Feb. 23, 2019 6th Annual Lloyd Bolander Memorial Day
Feb. 23, 2019 Lloyd Bolander Memorial Pine Cup Race, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
March 9-10, 2019 Hawaiian Days, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
March 9, 2019 Hawaiian Luau Dinner Party, 4-8 p.m.
March 16, 2019 16th Annual Cardboard Derby, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. (10:30 a.m. start time)
March 23, 2019 15th Annual Pond Skim Contest, noon-3 p.m. (runs start at 1 p.m.)
Open Mic Night at Riverside Cafe, Saturdays Dec. 8, 2018 through March 30, 2019, 6-8 p.m.
Ski with a Ranger, Fridays or Saturdays (depending on staffing) Jan. 1 through March 31, 2019
What’s in a name
“Many cultures around the world teach stories of creation These are traditional tales of just how a people came to be formed by the gods. The people must overcome an obstacle before they can merit passage into the world of light once it has been prepared to receive them. The stories all begin by referring to people as coming out at the ‘Place of Emergence.’ The place is a portal called a ‘Sipapú,’ hidden deep within the bowels of the Earth. For some people, Sipapú stands for a thinly veiled reference to a ski resort just beyond Vadito, southeast of Taos. In Uto-Aztecan the very word refers to “the womb, the navel or the heart of the Earth.” — Larry Martínez, Taos historian and foreign language coordinator at the University of New Mexico-Taos